Wassail! Wassail! all over the town,

Our toast is it white, our ale it is brown;

Our bowl it is made from the white maple tree;

With the wassailing* bowl....we'll drink to thee.







*Wassailing also grew from another ancient Anglo-Saxon custom - that of the winter blessings of orchards by singing, chanting and rhyming to the trees to insure the next year's successful harvest.  The ancient blessing of the orchards usually took place on New Year's Day, or on "Twelfth Night" (January 5th)After feasting and toasting, the party would progress to the orchards, singing and pouring cider on the roots of the oldest trees - sometimes firing powderless shot into the branches and beating the trunk with sticks. The revelers also hung pieces of special cakes or cider-soaked toast in the branches (possibly the origin of our word "toasting"). All this revelry and noise was intended to wake the trees from their winter sleep, and of course, frighten away any illness (or "malevolent spirits") that might provide trouble for the trees in the coming Spring.  Wassailing the trees still takes place in parts of England today.






George III Fruitwood Tea Caddy, in the form of a Pear

England, c1790-1810


Perhaps there is no better symbol for the English Yuletide "wassailing of fruit trees" than the turned fruitwood tea caddy

Introduced in the late 18th century, these fruit-forms are today probably the most sought-after of all caddies

There is conjecture that these caddies were made in imitation of the early 18th century Chinese pears and aubergines. 

English (and German) examples were predominately apples and pears; however cantaloupes, aubergines, and even strawberries and pineapples have been found.  Unlike the Chinese caddies, which had contrasting woods and screw-on lids,

the European models were simply polished or varnished, having loosely fitted hinged lids that were lifted by means of a stalk

- many of with have been broken or lost.  The interiors were lined with foil, now softly disintegrated through years of use.

Such is their popularity that many imitations are still made today,.

However this one is from the late 18th or early 19th century English Georgian period.






George I Highly Figured Burr Elmwood & Fruitwood Kneehole Desk,

England, c1725


These small case pieces have an interesting history, originally being a piece of "bedroom furniture" that had multiple purposes :

first in the 17th century as a "dressing table", eventually finding favor as a small "kneehole desk". These go by both names. 

The recessed door is known as a "prospect door", named after the "view",

as one would perceive through upright trees, mimicked by the two side tiers of drawers

As I have stated before, I find these desks among the most perfect proportions (artistically) that occur in British furniture.

I keep one in my living room for no purpose other than its beauty.

 Somehow the "architecture" of it, and the play of light and shadow accentuated by the wonderful closed batwing brasses, rings like music.  The woods and color on this example are exceptional - more vibrant than walnut.  The brasses are original. 

The outer sides and inner prospect recess are burr-veneered as well as the front.  

Also note the crossbanding on the quarter-veneered wonderfully grained fruitwood (probably crabapple) top. 




George III Scottish Silver-Mounted Treen Quaich,

Scotland, 18th Century


The quaich is a Scottish traditional "friendship" drinking vessel. Its probable origin was the Baltic region,

where "mazers" (large drinking bowls) were built in the staved manner from the medieval period.

Early quaichs were either carved from a single piece of wood, or made by

"feathering" together about 12 or 13 alternating light and dark staves (as above).

These were then held together by bands of willow or silver.

They generally had - and retain today - two or three short projecting handles called "lugs",

the best of these covered in silver.

The quaich was likely introduced into the Scottish Highlands in the early 16th century,

but not in use in Edinburgh and Glasgow until the late 17th century.

The name derives from the Gaelic word for cup - "Cuach" - pronounced like "qwaygh",

and probably only properly spoken by a true Scotsman.

Its favored use was for whiskey or brandy.

The quaich is also associated with Wassail - and with great friends sharing a dram or two!






Northern Italian Neoclassical Fruitwood & Exotic Woods Marquetry Writing Table

Late 18th Century


Veneered in exotic woods and native fruitwoods, this table tells the story of Angelica (or Angelique) on a hippogriffe,

escaping from an "orc", penned in Ludovico Oriosto's epic 1532 poem "Orlando Furioso"

 The long poem's recurrent theme is the insanity and oft-impossibility of love.

The very beautiful Angelica, daughter of the King of Cathay, when introduced into Charlemagne's court, was sought by many knights.  However her brother would allow her to marry only a knight who could best him in battle.  Two cousins, Orlando and Rinaldo, fell desperately in love with her, but lost the battles. Angelica and Rinaldo then drank from a magic fountain, leaving one madly in love,

and the other indifferent -- while Orlando lost his wits to passion (madness - "furioso").


In Oriosto's poem, Angelica was left by pirates, naked and chained to a rock on the Isle of Tears, waiting to be sacrificed to

the "orc" (a sea monster).  She was rescued by the African knight Ruggiero, riding on the back of a hippogriffe

(a mythical winged horse with the talons and beak of an eagle, itself symbolizing the "impossibility of love").


Oriosto's "Canto X" relates the rescue : 

"The hippogriffe, responding to the spur,

Braces its hoof and rises in the air, 

Away Ruggiero pillion carries her,

Depriving thus the monster of its fare. 

It was, indeed, no fitting connoisseur

For this bonne bouche, so delicate and rare. 

He looks behind and thinks he can surmise

A thousand kisses promised in her eyes."

Ludovico Oriosto, "Orlando Furioso", Canto X ,Verse 112

19th Century French Translation, M. A. Mazuy


Ruggiero gave Angelica a ring of invisibility, which she used to vanish from the ever-persistent Orlando. 

Angelica eventually fell in love with the African prince Medoro, and eloped with him to Cathay. 

Orlando was left lovesick and in need of assistance to recover. 


"Orlando Furioso" is essentially the re-writing of the Greek myth of Perseus, on the wings of Pegasus, rescuing Andromeda,

chained to a rock for her proud mother's boasting.  Angelica's story has been interpreted in art many times :

in oil by the French painter Ingres (Ruggiero Rescuing Angelica - Louvre, Paris, shown above)

 in bronze by Antoine-Louis Bayrye (Angelica and Rogero Mounted on the Hippogryph - 20 models)


 ...and interpreted in intricately inlaid exotic and fruit woods on this writing table. 




George III Fruitwood Mortar and Pestle, and a Fruitwood Mortar

England, c1800


The mortar and pestle has been used for grinding food and medicines since the early Egyptian period. 

They date to the earliest shamans and medicine men among most cultures. 

The tools were mentioned in the “Elers Papyrus” of 1550 BC (the oldest preserved piece of medical literature) and in the Old Testament.  Their names derive from Latin, mortar from mortarium, meaning, among other usages, "receptacle for pounding" and "product of grinding or pounding"; and pestle from pistillum, meaning "pounder", leading to English pestle

The mortar and pestle remains today the iconic symbol for medical prescriptions - and displayed by your local pharmacist.


The woods used for mortars and pestles range from the very dense imported lignum vitae,

to the lighter weight native fruitwoods  - from the orchards of England and Europe. 

They make outstanding strong decorative objects and collections --

as well as holders for all those small things you have absolutely no idea what to do with.






Rare and Fine Pair of Northern European Fruitwood Triangular Fold-Over Games Tables

Probably Belgium c1740


In the early rococo manner, the fruitwood veneers banded and strung with mahogany from the Indies,

beautifully carved and amazingly retaining all the original dew claws to the feet

Each center leg extends to support the top for a pair of tables fully open.

 Or -- the tables may remain as a closed triangle with the corner facing outward.

Or -- with the corner facing the wall and the beautifully blocked frieze facing outward (above left);

Or  -- they may used with the table surface upright resting against the wall (above right) - my personal preference. 


Finding a pair of games tables from the 1st half of the 18th century is quite unexpected.

We take great pleasure in offering this fine pair.



This year, we offered and sold the following fruitwood chair. 

However, no mention of fruitwood could be made without its inclusion.

Made likely of "wild cherry", and sitting like a throne, it hailed from the North of England.

On the crestrail were three stylized trees - whether a "tribute to the fruit trees", or a family arms, we were unable to ascertain.

It has every device that might have been the desire of the commissioner  - or of the chairmaker himself.  We thank the maker

for its creation, and the current owner for its purchase.  For your pleasure, please click for its full illustration.


George II Carved Fruitwood Open Armchair,

England, c1735-45




And so we end our "Tribute to the Fruit Trees",


with a single verse with "The Cherry Tree Carol",

and the wishes that, with all its  feasting and revelry - with all its kind sentiment, we could have

"Christmas for Ever" :


"Saint Joseph was an old man, and old man was he;

He married sweet Mary, and a Virgin was she.

And as they were walking in the garden so green,

She spied some ripe cherries hanging over you treen.

Said Mary to Joseph, with her sweet lips, and smiled,

'Go, pluck me yon ripe cherries off, for to give to my Child.'

Said Joseph to the cherry-tree 'Come, bow to my knee,

And I will pluck thy cherries off, by one, two and three.'

And as she stooped over Him, she heard angels sing :

'God bless our sweet Savior and our heavenly King.'"

                                                        - "Cherry Tree Carol" - Traditional, England, c1400




"Old Christmas with the Bowl and Holly", John Gilbert, Engraver John Gilbert, 1879

Top : "Wassail! Wassail! All Over the Town", English Traditional Carol, 18th Century or earlier

Top : George III Silver-Mounted Lignum Vitae Wassail Bowl, England, c1800, Personal Collection



Please click the above images or titles for further images and information




Click below for our other Christmas Catalogs,

featuring the British Yuletide custom of Wassail  :

But Now We Come a-Wassailing

Now Bring Us a Figgy Pudding

All Out of Darkness We Have Light




As usual, please email or call if you have any questions.


May it for you - where ever you are - be a very glad "Christmas - for Ever!" 


"Wæs Hal!"


Millicent Ford Creech


901-761-1163 (gallery) / 901-827-4668 (cell)



Hours : Wed.-Sat. 11-6, or by appointment


Complimentary Gift Wrapping


mfcreech@bellsouth.net  or  mfordcreech@gmail.com



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Wassail! Wassail! All over the town, Christmas